Our Team

Jodi Gladstone: Early Childhood Education Director

Jodi Gladstone

Jodi Gladstone has been teaching young children for over 20 years. She is currently the Director and Jewish Resource Specialist at Beth El Nursery School. Jodi has been a member of the BENS staff for 10 years. She has taught in the 3 year old and four year old classrooms as well as the Kindergarten class of Kadima. Before moving to the Bay Area in 2003, Jodi was the Artist in Residence for Pinat Shorashim, a hands on learning center and biblical park located at Kibbutz Gezer in Israel. There she created curriculum and community art experiences for children, teens, families and educators based on nature and Torah. She enjoys combining her love of art, nature and Judaism to make meaningful and memorable educational experiences for children and their families.

Jodi holds a Bachelor in Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and attended the WUJS post-Graduate Institute, in Arad, Israel in 1994 where she studied Hebrew and Judaism. She is a graduate of the first cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Institute (JECELI). She received her Jewish Early Childhood Education certification from Gratz College. Jodi has won the Diller Education Award in Early Childhood Education (ECE), an annual award recognizing excellence in Jewish educational programming. Jodi has been a nature and art materials workshop presenter at Jewish ECE conferences nationwide. She can be found dancing and making whimsical works of art in her spare time. She lives with her husband, Gordon and their two sons, Gefen and Nitzan.

Juliet Spear Gardner: BENS Administrator

Juliet Spear Gardner

My name is Juliet Spear Gardner. I grew up and became a Bat Mitzvah at Beth El and was a camper then counselor in Camp Kee Tov. I completed my B.A. at Columbia University, and got my teaching credential at Mills College. I have taught students of all ages in public and supplementary Jewish education and served as the Director of Education at Temple Beth Torah in Fremont. Previously, I worked as the Clergy assistant for Beth El. I am the coordinator for Chug Mishpacha, Beth El's Saturday Family School and teach 4th grade in Kadima. I am also a BENS parent: my daughter is a Gan Hadar student! In my spare time I like to cook, craft (someday I’ll finish my first quilt), and develop family costumes with my spouse, Peter.

Michelle Frankel: Gan D'vorim Teacher

Michelle Frankel

My name is Michelle Frankel and I was born in Israel and raised on Kibbutz Gezer, where I was immersed in community life, learning about the individual responsibilities it takes for such a place to flourish. My first work experience there was as a once-a-week assistant at the Gan with 2 and 3 year old children. I worked in other fields there too and liked them all but have found myself returning again and again to the field of childcare. I grew up bilingual, learning English from my parents and from other Olim (immigrants) living in the kibbutz, and am very fortunate to speak both Hebrew and English fluently. I came to California in 2000 and in high school I began to work at Camp Tzofim in Oakland each summer. When I finished high school I went to Sonoma State University and acquired a B.A. in Human Development, with a minor in Linguistics. My interests now include art, healing, yoga, dancing, building, learning, reading and music. 

Susan Sterling: Gan D'vorim Teacher

Susan Sterling

I first came to working with young children when I was in my late teens and early twenties living in Ithaca, New York. It was a good job, and one that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t until I had my two daughters, many years later, that I developed a deep fascination with these young beings. In the intervening years, I went to textile art school and taught weaving to children and adults, and got my master’s in art history. When I had my daughters, I was lucky to be able to spend most of my time with them and that was when I began to really learn to love a child for herself or himself, just as she/he was. I’ve been working with two year olds at Beth El for four years. I love the incredible variousness of each child and value that I get to participate in and witness their growth in this important year. When I’m not running with the terrific twos, I’m off hiking the hills of Wildcat Canyon or weaving in my home in Richmond.  

Ingrid Wishnoff: Gan D'vorim Teacher

Ingrid Wishnoff

Bio coming soon!

Wendy Brooks: Gan D'vorim/Gan Shemesh Teacher

Wendy Brooks

My name is Wendy Wellbaum Brooks. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Berkeley. I attended Mills College in Oakland, where I received my B.A. in European History. I returned to Mills in 1990 and received my MA in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Child Life, working with children in a hospital setting, in January of 1993. The 2017-2018 school year is my first official year at Beth El, although I did work at Camp BENS during the summer of 2014. Teaching is my calling and my passion, I love reading with children, singing loud, silly songs, and doing messy, process based, art projects. I am also mom to Kyle, (25) and Olivia (23). In my spare time, I enjoy playing with my cats, reading (mostly memoirs) and baking!

Aloe Hale: Gan Galim Teacher

Aloe Hale

I am Aloy Eshkoly Hale. I was born and raised in Jerusalem. I currently live in Alameda, CA with my husband. I started teaching at Beth El Nursery School in 2016. I teach in the Gan Galim classroom; working and learning with three-year-olds turning four. I bring my love of the Hebrew language to the classroom, infusing it in the everyday learning and activities. Some of my favorite activities in the classroom are storytelling and puppeteering. I also love to make Challah dough with the kids. In my spare time, I love costume making for comic-conventions, anything related to food and health including cooking and yoga practice.

Teresa Marylander: Gan Galim Teacher

Teresa Marylander

I am Teresa Marylander. I began my Early Childhood career in Hong Kong, first as a teacher and later as the director for a prestigious preschool.  After moving to the United States, I moved into the corporate world, working for a financial Big Five firm, hi-tech companies, and UCSF. Leaving the corporate world to follow my bliss, I became an SF SPCA-certified Dog Trainer, and taught fun puppy classes and specialized in helping dogs with serious behavioral problems. I loved being surrounded by dogs and becoming an accomplished dog whisperer. I left dog training to devote my full attention to my children. As they grew and developed in delightful ways, I felt a deep resonance back to my preschool teaching days. I recertified my Early Childhood Education degree at Chabot College, coming back to my roots. I love BENS because it gives me the space and support to be the teacher I have always wanted to be. I am totally in love with the children in my care, feeling that they motivate me to be a better teacher every day as well as inspiring my creativity when teaching and playing with them.  When not at work, I avidly practice yoga, chauffeur my teenagers to their myriad of events, and love to cozy up with my cats and family in the evenings.


Vicki Tomasik: Gan Shemesh Teacher

I am Vicki Tomasik. I have been an educator of young children since 1993. I began teaching pre-school in 1993 at the Santa Rosa Jewish Community Center Nursery School in the toddler program. I have been a teacher and co-director at Sprouts Pre-school in Berkeley since 2013 and I currently teach 2-5 year olds there. I started teaching at BENS in 2018 in Gan Shemesh. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State University and received my Early Childhood Education credential from Santa Rosa Junior College. I love reading with children and dramatizing the stories with them as well as doing open-ended art projects.

I have three children that attended Berkeley public schools, Jack, Ava and Georgia. I am a 4th generation native Californian who grew up riding horses in Woodside and fondly remember the freedom and carefree atmosphere I enjoyed as a child.

In my free time, I enjoy practicing yoga, hiking and camping, sailing, going to movies and traveling. My most recent big trip was in 2016 when I took my daughters to Thailand for 2 weeks.

​​Briel Pomerantz: Gan Hadar Teacher

​​Briel Pomerantz

​My name is Briel Pomerantz, I have been at BENS in the Gan Galim classroom working with 3's and 4's since 2013. Before coming to BENS I received my Masters in Early Childhood Education at Mills College, and spent 2 years teaching in various classrooms at the Mills College Children's School. I have worked with children 2.5-5 years of age. Before my graduate work, I worked for over a decade in many capacities with children, babysitting/nannying and as a camp counselor.

In my life outside the classroom I am a professional actor. I have performed in both plays and musicals around the Bay Area. I hold a BA in Drama from UC Irvine; I have trained at the Williamstown Theater Festival and A.C.T. in San Francisco. I have found my theatre training to be an ideal background going into Early Childhood Education, as both are rooted in play and social-emotional understanding and development. I bring this expertise into the classroom through storytelling, dramatic play, song, and movement. We occasionally break into spontaneous musicals during free play. I love celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat every week and bring the joy of creating holiday foods, science, and art exploration with my students.


Nurit Garner: Gan Hadar Teacher

Nurit Garner

I am Nurit Garner. I was born and raised in Beer Sheva, Israel. I have always loved for working with children and got my start while living on a kibbutz. I have been working in Early Childhood Education since 1997, and 17 of those years were with our very own Beth El community. Getting to have a positive impact on children's lives is one of the many things I love about my job! As a kid, I was outside every day playing for hours on end with all the other neighborhood kids. When I have time, I love taking ceramic classes, reading, working on photo albums and baking. Spending time with family, friends and traveling hold much value in my life.

Marisa Torres: Gan Hadar Teacher

My name is Marisa Torres and I became a teacher in the Gan Hadar classroom in 2019. I am originally from San Diego and moved to the Bay Area for school in 2002. I graduated with a BA from San Francisco State University, where I started my early childhood education experience by working with children in various Asian American Non-Profit Programs. After graduation, I moved back to San Diego and worked with children with learning and behavioral delays and helping children with autism become comfortable in a classroom setting. I began teaching pre-school in 2011 in the 2 years old classroom until 2016 when I moved back to the East Bay. I then became a teacher in a 3 year old classroom at a preschool in San Francisco that focused on STEM and then transitioned to an outdoor experience classroom preschool here in the East Bay where I helped to create a mixed aged (3-5) program in 2018.

Outside of the classroom I like to go camping and backpacking and to travel when ever I can. I also enjoy visiting my family in Southern California, hanging out with friends, going to Warriors and A’s games and eating tacos.

Emily Yerlick: Gan Shemesh Coordinator

Emily Yerlick

I am Emily Yerlick. I have been a member of the Beth El community for over 20 years and am so excited to be a part of the Beth El Nursery School team! Having always had a love for kids, I began working as a CIT at Camp Kee Tov in 2003 and haven't left. I climbed the ranks of Kee Tov, culminating my tenor as Administrator and Director from 2012-2018. Throughout those years, I learned that there is a special joy I got from working with our youngest community members, and when it came time for a professional transition, I didn't have to look very far. I was over-the-moon excited to join the BENS team in 2018 as the Gan Shemesh Coordinator.

I studied Biology and Education at UC San Diego and love learning about child development, especially as it relates to physical, cognitive and social development. I've taking Early Childhood Education classes to further my learning and practice. In my spare time, I love to hike and camp in the Bay Area with my husband Misha, a Beth El and Berkeley native, and doggo, Riley. I love being outside, going to concerts at the Greek and watching all Bay Area sports teams during their respective seasons. Come say hi to me any time- I'd love to meet you and welcome you into the BENS community.

​Sarah Kator: Gan Shemesh Teacher

Sarah Kator

My Name is Sarah Kator. I was born and raised in Berkeley California. I went to Whittier College in Southern California, and received my BA in Child Development in 2016. I have been working in early childhood since 2014 and started at Beth El in 2017. I was volunteering in a kindergarten class when I knew I wanted to teach and work with kids. I loved to see their smiling faces when they understood their work. I love being a preschool teacher at BENS because it provides me with the chance to see children grow and learn in a safe environment. As a child, I loved biking, climbing on monkey bars, and jumping rope. Now, I love cooking, yoga, and being outside with friends and family.

Tom Miller: Gan Shemesh Teacher

Soraiya Lozano

My name is Tom Miller. I was born and raised in the East Bay. I have always admired my favorite teachers and camp counselors, which inspired me as a young teen to begin working as a counselor at Camp Kee Tov. I feel lucky to have bridged my passion for working with children and community for ten summers with Kee Tov and as an assistant teacher at Tehiyah Day School from 2016 to 2018. I love the culture of BENS: the outdoor classroom and community values, and its emphasis on learning through play and following the child's lead, while enabling a structure for healthy growth. In my free time I read, hike, do yoga, and spend time with friends and family.

Jessica Gruenstein: Gan Shemesh Teacher

My name is Jessica, and I am so excited to be joining the BENS community! I graduated from Columbia University in May 2018, where I double-majored in Psychology and Creative Writing. Needing a break from New York, I moved to Berkeley that July, and I’ve been loving it ever since. Before coming to BENS, I worked with the 2 year-old class at Gan Mah Tov at Beth Jacob, and I am thrilled to be continuing my journey with BENS. I have also worked with children at the Barnard Toddler Center, Mount Sinai’s Child Life program, and the Town School. Eventually I would like to become a clinical psychologist working with both children and adults. However, before continuing with grad school, I knew that I had to spend some more time working closely with kids. I love how intensely they feel their emotions, how imaginative they are, and how much energy they have. Even though they have not been in the world for that long, they can be incredibly deep beings, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. I also appreciate how teaching young children through a Jewish lens reminds me of Judaism’s most essential values. Focusing on mitzvot like Tzedakah (justice), Hakarat Hatov (gratitude), Kavod (respect), and Shomrei Adamah (guarding the earth), especially through song, helps me appreciate and understand my Jewish identity. In my free time, I love to cook, draw and paint, and sing along to Broadway soundtracks.

Photos taken by Jonathan Miller Photography